Mechanical Engineering graduate student Seo Young Ahn, student of associate professor Pania Newell, received a research award for the best student presentation and paper in elasticity at the Engineering Mechanics Institute (EMI) Conference. This annual international scientific and technical conference is dedicated to the field of engineering mechanics and brings together scholars from around the world to exchange and disseminate the most recent developments in their field.

Ahn’s paper “Probing the Mechanical Performance of Micro-architected Porous Structures Through In Situ Characterization and Analysis” studied the micromechanical behavior of nature-inspired nano-architected structures with different morphologies. They used a novel 3D photolithographic printer to fabricate nano-porous based on natural structures, then used a state-of-the-art pico indenter to observe and quantify the dynamic evolution of the structure when subjected to mechanical loading.

“Natural porous materials have long been recognized for their exceptional strength and versatility,” said Ahn. “By drawing inspiration from these structures, we can engineer materials with distinct properties and functionalities to address a wide array of challenges, ranging from efficient water filtration to achieving high mechanical strength with minimal density. This gives us an idea of the endless possibilities for design of nature-inspired materials with controllable properties.”

It was a long road to finish this work. Ahn spent countless hours in the Nanofab, even late at night. They also collaborated with one of the best materials scientists at AFRL. The end results of that work paid off with both winning the 2024 Elasticity Student Competition, as well as becoming their first published paper of her Ph.D.

“I was surprised by the results because the other finalists’ presentations were impressive. It was gratifying to see my efforts pay off,” said Ahn.

Ahn also encourages other students to participate in conferences and promote their own achievements.

“Through opportunities like the student competition at the EMI Conference, I gained valuable experience in portraying my work in meaningful ways. I also had great networking opportunities for collaborations. Students should take full advantage of these opportunities to help us grow in academia and industry.”

You can find more about Ahn’s work on lab at the Integrated Multi-Physics Laboratory website.